Dull and esoteric
Andariel Halo | Phenomynouss@hotmail etc is my e-mail | 02/19/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I am a great follower of the American Civil War, my interested piqued by the stellar performances of Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Stephen Lang, and others in "Gettysburg", and I greatly enjoy studying the highly interesting period of history.
For the money, this DVD set is certainly a worthwhile piece. However, even made in 1999, it feels inferior to what it could have been.
For one, the title is misleading, but the back descriptions openly admit: these documentaries are NOT about the battles, but about specific instances in the battle. So concerned with the individual aspects of each battle is the documentary that it becomes esoteric, and a completely new experience even for someone like me who has studied such battles as Antietam and Gettysburg deeply. The Battle of Shiloh manages to go beyond the Hornet's Nest itself, but the piece on Antietam never leaves the trenches, and the piece on Gettysburg is secured entirely in the wheatfield, to a point of such intense study and devotion that you'd think the Wheatfield was where the core of the battle took place (Hint: it wasn't. It was major, but it was not the decisive battle area).
The re-enactments are decent, but inferior. Most of the re-enacting involves men laying around camp, or marching into battle. Typical of cable television documentaries, there's no blood and no violence, with very little emphasis on the actual fighting, and more on men marching, falling dead, and raising their guns to fire at targets never shown on camera. The re-enactment footage, compared to the pictures and interviews, are very hazy, as if done with a lower-quality camera, or under a perpetual veil of dust. Some of the casting, even though only present for a few seconds, are questionable, and their actions appear slightly out of character for the historical person. For example, the extra playing General Longstreet appears too portly, and looks so taken aback by the actions at the Wheatfield that he appears stunned stupid, not exactly the sort of reaction of a Corps Commander.
For the price offered by Amazon or its merchants, this is certainly a worthy addition, but I do not recommend it to anyone not a devoted studier of Civil War history, and even then it can appear dry, almost dull, when compared to other documentaries, or movies or books like "Gettysburg/The Killer Angels", "Gods and Generals", "The Last Full Measure", "Cold Mountain", etc."
magellan | Santa Clara, CA | 06/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having had a chance to visit several Civil War battlefields on a trip east (Gettysburg, Antietam, and Manassas) and take the tours, that sparked an interest in learning more about the history, and I started watching this series and bought a couple of standard books on the subject. As a newcomer to detailed Civil War history, the series was fine as an introduction. More informed reviewers would probably find it too basic, but then I'm a beginner. The re-enactments are dramatic and very realistic in recreating the most important events of these battles, sometimes using what appears to be thousands of participants, dozens of canons, and in some cases men are thrown into the air from explosions nearby, doing somersaults and what not, making me wonder if some of the re-enactors had stunt man abilities. I found these recreations of several of the most important battles very informative and enjoyable to watch, I just wish there was a set where you could get all of the battles. I've seen at least 14 battles on the History Channel, but for some reason only a few of these are included in these sets. That's the reason for the four instead of five stars. Overall a fine series, especially for the neophyte who wants to get his feet wet."